Why Poker?

Over the years I have had many people ask me why I chose poker. Well, the truth is there isn’t just one answer to that question.
First you have to answer the question, “What is Poker?”
When you type “What is Poker” into your search engine (in this case Google) you’re given the generic definition:
noun: poker
1. a card game played by two or more people who bet on the value of the hands dealt to them. A player wins the pool either by having the highest combination at the showdown or by forcing all opponents to concede without a showing of the hand, sometimes by means of bluff.
Well that’s a pretty bland answer, but it is an answer. The problem is that there is so much more to it than that… And it gets ever harder when you have to break down poker into it’s subcategories (5 Card Draw, Stud, 7 Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, Razz, Omaha, etc.,). So to avoid all that I’m just going to tell you that to me poker is Love. Yes love in it’s own sense of the word.
My friend Scott Sommerdorf asked me a similar question in an interview for the Salt Lake Tribune and their new “I Love…” video series, (there is a link to this in my “about” section but here it is again for quick reference http://www.sltrib.com/home/2483977-155/i-love-video-series-poker-gives) and my answer just barely scratches the surface of what poker is, and what it is to me. I doubt that I will truly offer justice to what poker actually is here today.
To scratch the surface I’m going to start with a story. It was early May of 2000, and I was in Las Vegas to pick up a friend who was coming into town for his bachelor party. Little did I know that this trip to the airport would set into motion a life change people only write stories about… (We’ll use the name Matt for this story to respect his interests.) I pick Matt up from the airport, and after we got his bags all loaded into the rental, he mentions that he has us seats reserved for a small tournament down on the old part of the strip. At this time in my life, poker was just an excuse to get the guys together for some drinks and bragging rights, and maybe take home a few extra bucks here and there. At this point I don’t have a clue what I’m getting myself into. So we pull into the parking lot of a little casino called The Lady Luck (may she rest in peace), and unload our gear. We got checked in and had a few drinks to catch up a bit. The tournament he’d gotten us into didn’t start till 8 that night so we had some time to kill, but we were itching a bit to get in some of the Vegas table action. Our tournament was at the famous Horse Shoe Casino so we decided that was as good a place as any to start. As we walk in from the valet, one of the guys reaches over to shake my hand and offer us some good luck, he shocked me. Not one of those mental shocks, but a literal shock! As I recoiled my hand, he expressed his apologies, and stated, “You never know, maybe I just filled you with some luck!”
Thinking nothing of it, we continued on our way to the Blackjack table. We find a table that has no one there but the dealer. So we sit and exchange our cash for chips. The dealer yells out “Changing 100!” so the manager on the floor comes over and shakes our hand welcoming us to the table. (I wish places still did this kind of thing… I feel like the customer service part of the industry has really diminished). First hand in I get dealt a “Blackjack” and Matt gets 2 face cards. Dealer busts, so
we both get paid. Second hand in I get 9-2, and Matt get 19. Dealer is showing a 4. So I double down, and Matt Stays. Dealer turns over a king and the next card is a queen. The dealer busts again! We turn my card over, and I was given a 9. So we both get paid again. This goes on for the next 10 minutes where neither of lose a hand. We had no idea that this was unheard of, we were just amazed at our luck! As always, it was time for them to change the dealer, so we took this as a good chance to move on our way. As we stood up, we counted our money and I was up to $350 and he was at $290. As we were parting we waved to our previous dealer and thanked the manager and went about our business. So we headed to the poker room, beers in hand. As we walked, for some reason what the valet had said to me resurfaced as a thought … Maybe he was right! Luck might be with us!
Fast forwarding a bit to the start of the tournament, I’m seated in the 7 seat. First hand in with the button in the 9 seat, I look down at A-A. This tournament started us with decently small stacks, I’m guessing we each had 1200 to start with. First player to act raises to 200, second player calls, third and fourth players fold. I call. The 8 seat was empty and the 9 goes all in over the top. Small blind folds. Big blind Folds. Back to the original raiser, He calls, as does the other player. So now we have 3 players all in and I have A-A… Well most people who’ve been playing this
game for a long time would jam right away knowing that its exactly what they want. I take a second thinking about it… More than anything I’m thinking about the guy in the valet… Finally I call… Players turn over K-Q, A-Q, 7-7. Flop comes out 2-2-7. Ah crap! The guy flops a full house. There is literally only one card left in the deck that I can win with. The turn is a J. So at this point I stand up, finish my beer, and begin to offer my goodbyes to the rest of the players. The the dealer lays the final burn card, and to add more drama to the situation, slowly turns over the
river card. Not realizing what has happened, I glance over and see the last Ace in the deck laying there. The table goes crazy. The guy with 7-7 is going crazy laughing as well. No one expected it, especially not me. So the result is I win the first pot of my tournament life, and as luck would have it, in the end, … my first casino tournament win. Not a bad start to the weekend. That first win has been cemented in my life, and is a constant reminder that luck is an important factor in this
As we left I looked for the valet driver who may or may not have been my luck charm that night, but he had already gone home. I left him a $100 tip and a note to thank him. The note said, “Thanks for the Spark!” That tournament made me $2500 which I split with Matt, on the way to an awesome bachelor party weekend!
It would be another 3 years before I sat at another poker table in Vegas. Many things changed after that day. I soon moved to Salt Lake City, got into the cell phone industry… Met my wife, and didn’t really have all that much time to explore poker.
Early in 2003 I met Randy, who at that time was the owner of Utah Amateur Poker League. He invited us out to his game, and Jeff (business associate) and I saw it as a prime opportunity to jump in as a sponsor and maybe sell a few plans to some of their players. The moment I walked in the door it all came rushing back to me… I needed to sit and play some cards… I needed the luck… I needed to feel the chips in my hands… I needed to play poker.
Fast forward to today. I currently own an entertainment company with a good friend and fellow poker enthusiast. Both of us share an accomplished poker resume and spend most of our time dealing cards to help players get better. I currently feel like I’m living a dream. What better life is there than to bring one of my true loves to other people and share their love for it?
So when you ask me “why poker?…” I say “because I love it.”
There are so many different things about the game that I love I could go on for hours here. So to quote my own words, “I love the education of the game. I love playing the game. I love the manipulation of the game. I love teaching the game. I love dealing the game. I love running the tournaments. I love being the jovial guy in the room. I love being the guy that everybody knows.”
I love poker…I doubt that really answers your question, but at least it begins to give you some understanding as to why I’ve chosen poker…
Scott Sommerdorf   |  The Salt Lake Tribune Piper Down Co-Poker Director Les Pendergraft interacts with players during a tournament at Piper Down, Tuesday, April 21, 2015.
Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune
Piper Down Co-Poker Director Les Pendergraft interacts with players during a tournament at Piper Down, Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

“You know you are betting into a Dead Pot right?”

Good morning! At least its morning here… So I had a nightmare last night… I call it a nightmare because it was one of those dreams where you relive moments in your life… In this case it wasn’t just one moment, it was several moments that seem to continually haunt me…  You see as a tournament director, a poker dealer, and a poker player, there is not a game that goes by where I don’t hear phrases being used by players that have absolutely no clue what the phrase actually means. Some of these phrases (like: Pot Odds, Pot Committed, Dead Pot, Dry Pot, Position Betting, Calculated Move, Outs, Percentages, etc.) have actual meaning in the game. They could also have completely different meaning based on the player using them or the time frame they are being used.

So back to my dream…  Last night I felt like all of my 15 years of playing this wonderful game came back and kicked me in the face! It was like I was watching flash imagery of the probably 10,000 hands where people utter that hair raising phrase that drives me crazy every time I hear it. Followed by me telling them that there is no validity to their comment… And then it starts all over again… I swear this dream was trying to tell me that I’m wasting my time. I’m not going to break down the wall that I keep smacking my head into…

Now, to the purpose of today’s rant. There is one specific phrase that literally makes me cringe almost every time I hear it… That phrase is, “You’re betting into a dead pot…” Now I have searched far and wide to try and actually find the meaning of “dead pot” and have found nothing. (To back my research here is a link to the “Poker Terms Wiki”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_poker_terms ) The truth is, there is no such thing as a “dead pot”. What has become the understood meaning drives me bonkers! When there is a player “all-in” and has been called by more than one person, without a raise, we should all check down to the river and see who wins! Why don’t we all just roast marshmallows and make s’mores while we’re at it… Blah! We’re here to play poker and accumulate as many chips as possible!

I do understand that you have to eliminate players to win poker tournaments however, the scenario with a player all in and checking it down to the river should only come into play once you’ve eliminated enough people that positioning for the money matters. But don’t call this a “Dead Pot” call it exactly what it is, a money grab. No one will question you, no one will care! (Unless of course you have the literal nuts and are the last to act, in this case if you don’t bet you’ll get the floor called on you and probably get a collusion penalty…)

You will notice in that list of poker terms that there is a term known as “Dry Pot”. It is my belief that this is where the idea of a “Dead Pot” came from. In a dry pot you have a player all-in and have more than one caller but there is no raise. Meaning that no more chips can be placed into the main pot so until there is another bet the side pot is dry. Somewhere back in time, someone saw this as a moment where they could talk themselves into free cards, and started complaining about betting into nothing…  (and if you read my last post you should know how I feel about free cards.)You should never expect to get free cards. Every single moment you are in a hand there is a battle going on. The winner of the battle stacks the chips. If you are the guy waving the white flag begging for free cards, I’m going to run you over, and stack the chips.

I hope that you’ve come to understand that I’m not crazy here, and I know that there is supposed to be a fun element to the game of poker. I hope you understand that if you can’t have fun playing cards you probably should be there in the first place, but know this: Winning is fun too! So don’t get mad at me when I am battling for every pot that I’m a part of… There is a good chance that I’m get trying to gain value out of a pot that has presumably very little value in it. This is poker, every move should be calculated. Every game should have a learning experience connected to it. If you want to see free cards stay at home and deal 8 handed theory to yourself. (for the record 8 handed theory is a good way to learn and begin understanding theories and or probabilities.)

Dead Pot means absolutely nothing, so please stop using the term. When they invented Texas Hold’em they established a “Blind Structure”. This establishment was put into place to avoid situations where there would be a dead pot, or a pot with zero value for anyone… since our forefathers thought it a good idea to protect us from our own stupidity, please show the same respect back and don’t reinvent the wheel…


On My big blind!?

To all of you who stumble upon my little blurb area, welcome and enjoy my rants generally related to poker!

And to get this rolling first let me introduce myself. My name is Les and I co-own an entertainment company specializing in Poker. Texas Hold’em to be more specific. Our company operates mostly in the bar industry, doing private parties from time to time as well.

So the topic of today’s rant: Pre-flop raising.

(Now understand that in no way do I declare that my opinions should be taken as gospel, in fact I can guarantee that there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with me, but the beautiful thing is that this is my page and my rant so my opinion is all that will matter here…)

One of the more annoying things that I hear and deal with are people who get upset, and take offense to people who raise pre-flop. “You know it’s my big blind right?” or “you raised on my big blind!?” are just a couple of the more tame comments I hear as I deal cards to these people…

Understanding that this is just a bar game and by design, our goal is to do everything we can to insure that all the players are having a good time, it becomes difficult when players complain every time someone raises… There is nothing worse dealing to a table with a player or two who do nothing but complain…

Now, it is my opinion that the most important part of betting happens pre-flop. If everyone was allowed to smooth call and see every flop, 7-2 would no longer be considered the worst hand in poker… In fact, hand rating would be completely taken out of the game… Let’s all just ante up and turn our cards over, and see who wins, because as much as these people complain I feel like that’s what they want! There is a strategy to raising pre-flop, first is to weed out all the inferior hands, second is to establish control of the hand. Eliminating players before the flop is shown increases your chances at taking down the pot… Ultimately the goal for anyone who raises, is to minimize your number of opponents in the hand. There’s nothing worse than opening with A-A and knowing they have to stand through eight or nine other players in the hand. Thus we raise with A-A to get the 7-2’s of the world out of the hand.

So when you say “you know it’s my big bling right?” All you’re telling me is that you don’t want to play the game. You want everything handed to you for free… As A player, every time I hear that, all you’re doing is instigating me to do it more regardless of what two cards I have…

My suggestion to all of the people who hate having their big blind raised, forget that your big blind is even out there. At some point it’s every persons big blind, chalk it up to a fee to play that every nine or ten hands you’ll have to pay for. And if you don’t like that thought process the other option is be the one raising. Nothing in life is free, and if you don’t want to pay the price, fold and move on to the next hand… Complaining about it will get you no where!